In this essay I will be writing about how I performed to pieces of improvised drama based around the subject of ‘space’. One of the pieces had to be done in a realistic style and the other an abstract.
Initial Reaction to Stimulus
When we were first told that are stimulus would be ‘space’, we all sat down I and had what could be called a ‘brain storming’ session. This was to consider how such a broad subject could be perceived in two pieces of drama.
First of all we had to consider how ‘space’ could be identified. There are many kinds of ‘space’, which can be made into forms of drama, and we would need to select one that could produce the most gripping. For this we identified just how space could be used, and came up with the following ideas for realistic or abstract piece (we could the ideas into abstract drama later):
Space, as in ‘the final frontier’, could be used to great effect. Space and the entire notion of the ‘great beyond’ could be used. Maybe having characters interacting with character not of this planet, maybe contrasting views or morals. Maybe having the outsider coming to earth from space. Using space in this way opens the door to all sorts of personification of space using a science fiction spin. This could be done in some sort of ‘Star Trek’, thought provoking scene involving space.
Personal space, or the lack of it. For a realistic piece, maybe something to do with the prison system or freedom infringements. If we set it in a cell (an area where there is little space), not only would there be a direct physical relation to space but also the characters will be able to show space in there speech and movements.
Taking this idea further, we could show how the lack of space mentally. Instead of the characters talking about space directly, it could be implied indirectly by their psychological flaws. These ‘psychological flaws’ would have been caused by space, either too much of it or not enough.
These are all ideas in their early stages and all need developing. But even at the early stage, the idea of psychological flaws caused by space was very appealing.
For the abstract piece of drama, these initial ideas will have to be developed in an entirely different way. It will need other dramatic techniques to fit the criteria
A surreal piece would allow us to incorporate more style and personalization in to piece. When thinking about abstract and surrealism in drama, the first thing that comes into my head is to have ‘situation’ of drama instead of a continuous story. This would allow us to show the subject matter, space, in a number of different ways.
Freeze-frames could be used while each character explains information about them and their situation (character monologues). This would show to the audience character depth that could not be seen in just a one short scene.
As for the content of this abstract piece, I had some ideas of separate pieces revolving around the subject space. This would allow us to put a lot of imagination in each piece without needing to worry about what would follow it.
For the first piece I worked with the following people:
For the second piece, we decided to split up and work with different. The main reason for this was to keep all the drama fresh with fresh ideas. Although we thought that we were capable of producing another piece drama, tensions were building in the group and we agreed to spilt. For the second piece I worked with:
The first piece we worked on had a plot that I think was well structured. It allowed character depth and development. The first two lessons after we formed are group were spent on structuring a plot which could show off are acting talents and incorporate the idea of space. First we decided that it should be based around a main character.
An idea that has always interested me was personifying a character subconscious. This might sound a little far fetched but it would give the character more substance and the audience something to relate to. This would not be his conscious or a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ angel but a version of himself that is not usually seen.
With that starting point we went ahead and considered how the space theme would fit into this idea. We thought a family clash about space would put this character in the right frame to create good drama around him. This could be mirrored with a character that is in a way opposite him.
We all thought that it would be a good idea to have a ‘visual conscious’ for him like with the other character. This would allows us to show the differences in these characters and it would fit in with the number of people in are group. How these ‘conscious’ would look actually on stage would be greatly influenced by Stuart, who put in a lot to the actual ‘conscious’ theme.
Taking all this we constructed a story which we split up into scenes. This is the first draft of the scenes and what they would contain:
Scene 1: This scene would contain an argument between the main character and his Dad. It has to be his Dad because I do not believe any of us could pull of a convincing woman. This argument would be about space, and the child’s lack of it. This will end in the character storming out to see his friend. This will show the trouble space has already caused. This will be set in the house.
Scene 2: This would be an interlude where the audience gets some in sight into the relationship between him and his conscience. It will be the main character complaining to himself with the conscience talking around him. This will show how the character relates to something, which in essence, him cannot see or hear. This will be set in the walk between his house and the park.
Scene 3: This will be conversation between the main character and what appears to be his opposite. This conversation will uncover some back round information about each character and will explain their personality faults. It will also set up the events for the next scene that involves criminal activity brought on by conversation. This will show the parallels between two
characters who see and treat space in different ways and how it has effected them. This will be set in a peaceful place, a park
Scene 4: In this scene the two main characters will get involved in major arson. This will result in an explosion off stage and the two running off. This shows what space problems can result in. This will be set in the other end of the park.
Scene 5: This will be like the first scene, with an argument between the Dad and the main character. This will be a lot fiercer than the first and will increase in tension as it progresses. This is the finale of the drama and will bring out all the aspects of space we have been trying to portray. This will be set back in the house.
In terms of evaluating the plot, I am proud of it. I played a big part in crafting it and personally I feel happy with it. Problems with it may be finding enough for the consciences to say and do since they are simply other version of the characters that already present.
We found casting very difficult, particularly a part for Hussian. First of all, we thought it would be best if he had the role of the Dad. But we found a stern sort of character wasn’t suited for him. We then had the idea of changing the Dad to a Mum. But Hussian playing a woman in my opinion, and on previous acting experience, seems to be type cast and contrary to some people opinion he was cast in a role that would highlight his acting talent. The other characters were relatively easy to cast. Here was the final cast list:
Leigh Turner The Dad
Alain Branson Gary (the main character)
Stuart Mulrany Gary conscience
Chris Jones Damien (the character opposite to Gary)
Hussian Kerian Damien conscience
Above is the set we choose to use. It is fairly basic with the stage being split into three sections, one representing the house, one the park and the other the journey in between.
The props were also very simple, with a table and chairs representing the house interior and a bench representing the park.
Area of lighting for scenes 1 and 5
Area of lighting for scenes 2, 3, and 4
The costumes we used were authentic of the parts we played. I played the Dad, so I wore clothes that represented a Dad. I just wore a black T-shirt and jeans, which is what my Dad would wear. Gary wore typical teenage clothes, a bit ‘scurfy’ to help show the difference between him and Damien. Damien will also were typical teenage clothes, but nothing like Gary’s.
The consciences wore suits. This would show how they different from the other characters and yet still an important part of the drama. We would also be able to visual show aspects of there personality. This means Gary’s conscious is good, so he wore a white suit and Damien’s conscious a black suit.
Rehearsal started well with Alain and myself going though the first argument many times. The first argument we thought needed to build in aggression as it went on. We found this hard at the beginning because we found that we got very angry very quickly and needed to take it slower. This was a small problem and was easily overcome.
After we had the basic of this scene, we moved on to the bench scene. This scene was hard to rehearse, and certain members of the cast did not help. Small arguments in the group made rehearsing slow and grinding. Out of all scenes, this one was the one that never really was rehearsed to maximum affect. Chris and Stuart, to major parts in this scene, had moments of inspiration that helped give a fuller picture of are story.
About half way though the rehearsal time the group came to a discussion that the story needed a more conclusive ending. We needed to change the story and keep the scenes the same so it would not interrupt rehearsals too much. We decided that in scene 4 that Gary would die in the explosion and the final argument would be between Damien and the Dad about the blame. This would show the consequences of space and add to the drama. The explosion would be a red strobe light operated of stage and Damien and Gary would be blown on stage, with only Damien getting up and running any.
This means we would have to put in new spin on the final argument so Damien would fit into the ending. We decided that if Damien were to come to see the Dad so it would be Damien trying to explain himself. This would allow Chris to show of his talent (which may not get shown in previous scenes) and allow me to say something different to a different person.
The more rehearsal went on, the more we touched up the scene. Stuart’s contribution to the way consciences move and talk was a big help. Hussian, Alain and Chris’s determination helped finish the scenes kept it all going. Still, I don’t think we really got the park scene nailed.
After we changed groups, the first thing we did was to decide how to make this piece abstract and surreal. Most of these ideas were covered in the ‘Initial Reaction to the Stimulus’. Sam and Alain played a major part in deciding how the play would actually work. We wanted to consider all the ways we could show space in a surreal way so this took quite a bit of time.
Instead of just repeating what I said at the beginning the essay, basically we decided to have pieces of drama (with monologue’s and freeze frames) linked by a tableaux. Admittedly, I would have liked to try something a bit more, well adventurous but this seemed to fit the bill and with the right characterization would create gripping drama.
The pieces of drama would involve to 2 conflicting character. The third person in the group would give a monologue while the others are in a freeze frame. After this the characters would return to a platform at the back of the stage and do a tableau reflecting what has just happened. There were
4 pieces if drama and to save confusion, we named the characters with one name, no matter what scene there in.
Alain Branson Tony (Gangster, Brother, Teacher)
Sam Jordan Harry (Gangster, Dad, Pupil)
Leigh Turner Jack (Barman, Brother, Son)
Scene 1: Jack is arguing with his Dad (Harry) about space. Jack is child that has had his own way most of his and it is only recently that his Dad had not been allowing him to go out. This sparked the argument. His dad is not over protective, but wants the best for his son. Jack is a typical teenager that is over emotional and arrogant.
Sam played the Dad with depth and sternness, just like a real Dad and dominated the scene. I think I played the teenager well, remembering my constant arguing with my folks. The problems with playing a teenager is that in and argument they have limited vocabulary and generally say the same thing over and over. Anyway, I think this was a strong scene that set the standard for the rest of the play.
Scene 2: Harry (a schoolboy) is arguing with his teacher (Mr. Tony) about a detention. Harry has been having a few family problems at home and this has crossed over into his schoolwork. This has lead to Mr. Tony having to give him a detention. The argument consisted of Harry trying to explain the situation to the teacher.
Sam once again pulled of a very good portrayal of character, but due to the nature of the role was not the dominant character. Alain played an excellent teacher character, really showing talent a presence on stage. Once again, teachers are stubborn so not repeating yourself would have been hard, but Alain was very believable.
Scene 3: Tony starts an argument with this brother, Jack. This is over how Jack gets more space and time off of their dad. This is the first time they have had an argument like this one and Tony is unsure how his brother will react. This leads to an argument, which neither of them gain the upper hand until the end, where Jack hits Tony.
Alain was very convincing as the somewhat confused Tony, adjusting to the tone of the argument accordingly. I was not so good. I had trouble adapting to the level of aggression I should use in the argument.
Scene 4: Two rival gangster have an argument over, wait for it, space and end up shooting each other. The two have a violent history and this is the final straw. The initial meeting takes place in a bar where Tony is enjoy a drink with barman. Harry walks in and the argument between the two eventually leads then to a shot out. Once again Sam and Gary where very convincing drawing on there past experience of gangster roles. I really took a minor part in this scene, letting the gangster create the drama. I did show a friendship with Tony, but this was short lived and explored.
This I think was the weakest of the 4 scene and was performed for the wrong reasons (i.e. they were both involved in gangster related drama during the writing stage).
As you can see, we used a very ‘Brecht’ set, with very few props to speak of. This minimalist stage meant we had more space for acting and movement. ‘Brecht’ played a part in designing the stage because we all felt that a performance like this one needed a strong style so it separates it from other abstract pieces. Special lighting was not needed, so full house lights were used.
We all decided to wear suits in all the pieces. This would make it more abstract and they a very versatile to the parts we played (teacher, gangster etc.)
We had many rehearsals, which we managed to fit into a very short time space. We went through every scene in order constantly with very little variation.
I would like to put a lot more detail into this but there was little else we did. We looked at the tableaux and changed them a few times till they represented each scene perfectly. The monologues were rehearsals a lot till everybody knew what everybody what going to say.
Evaluation (of both)
Both the performances went very well and very few mistakes. In comparison the two piece are different but with one on going theme. This is that they all show a single character’s problem with space.
This allowed us to show how different people can react to space. This, however, lead to some of are character sounding the same.
I terms of actual work, I think the last group I worked was dedicated than the first and wanted to get the work done more. As is said earlier, some scenes in the first performance I would have liked to go over a few more times.
This I think can be related to the size of groups. Think you can get more work done if there is a smaller number in your group. You can concentrate more and work more in a complete group.
In terms of plot, I think are first piece was better. This is not that the second piece had no plot, but I think the first performance was more gripping and kept attention better.